Sixth seed Sebastian Baez produced a squeaky clean performance Saturday to win the Winston-Salem Open and extend his winning streak to 10 matches after also claiming the ATP 250 event in Kitzbühel three weeks ago.
The Argentine needed just one hour, 34 minutes to defeat fifth seed Jiri Lehecka 6-4, 6-3 and capture his first tour-level title on hard courts and third trophy of the season.
Despite a marathon three-hour, 19-minute semi-final against Borna Coric on Friday night, Baez showed no signs of fatigue as he stayed patient in baseline rallies and struck the ball cleanly. Lehecka, who was competing in his first tour-level final, advanced to the title match after receiving a walkover from third seed Sebastian Korda, who suffered an ankle injury in the quarter-finals.
A pivotal moment came when the 22-year-old Baez saved four break points when serving at 5-4 to close a 54-minute opening set. Baez stayed focussed despite trailing by a break early in both sets and won four consecutive games from 0-2 in the second.
"[My coach told me] to keep going, try and stay focussed on good things," Baez said. "It was just a bad start, but happy with the result and all of this week."
Lehecka tried to move forward in the latter stages of the match to apply pressure on the World No. 42, but lacked the consistency needed to down a watertight Baez, who thrilled the crowd with several passing shots to improve to 2-0 in his Lexus ATPHead2Head series with the Czech.
The Buenos Aires native is the first Argentine to win three or more tour-level titles in a single season since Juan Martin del Potro (4) in 2013.
Following his triumph, Baez will move to No. 32 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday, just two spots shy of tying his career-high. He will next aim to maintain his form at the US Open, where he opens against 25th seed Coric.
"It's nice to have that confidence, but now I have to think about my recovery after this week, and then after I will think about the US Open," Baez said. "I have a few days to recover and to focus again on a new tournament."
Lehecka was aiming to become the first Czech to win a tour-level title since 2020. A finalist at last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals, Lehecka will rise to a career-high No. 30 on Monday. He will face Aslan Karatsev in the first round of the season’s final major.
“Hopefully the next tournament will be a bit more happier for me, but still a good week, positive week ahead of New York. A lot of good memories from here,” said Lehecka.
Did You Know?
In 2023, four players have won three or more tour-level titles: Carlos Alcaraz (6), Daniil Medvedev (5), Novak Djokovic (4) and Baez.